Homeopathy DOA

homeopathy

manicstreetpreacher gives his assessment of a form of snake oil that is still amazingly popular in the 21st century.

Homeopathy is an “alternative remedy” devised in the late 18th century by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann.

It is based on the premise that “like cures like”.  However, unlike a vaccine that introduces a diminished form of a virus into a person’s body, thereby stimulating the immune system to becoming resistant to a potentially deadly dose of the virus, homeopathy on the other hand “works” by introducing an agent that induces similar symptoms into that person’s body and so fighting the symptoms of whatever it is that ails them.

For example, red onion is used to cure watery eyes, snake venom for stiffness, poison ivy for skin rash etc.  This is a completely unfounded premise that has no basis in science.

samuel-hahnemann

There is a further twist.  Homeopathic practitioners dilute the external agents with water to the extent that there are no active molecules present in the solution or tablets.  It’s basically just water that you’re taking.  Nevertheless, homeopathists claim that water has “memory” and the more diluted the solution, the more effective it is. Right.  And what about all the other impurities that water meets on its journey?  Do all the salt, urine and chemicals have a healing effect as well?

I remember my mother giving me homeopathic tablets when I was child suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea caused by an upset stomach, and do you know what?  They did the trick beautifully!  Whenever I started feeling queasy and I would have to rush to the loo within the next few minutes, I used to take a tablet and the sick feeling subsided.  Magic!

Knowing what I know now about homeopathic remedies, this was obviously just the placebo effect at work: my mind was tricked into believing that these sugar pills were an effective remedy and this had a positive effect on my body in combating the relatively mild condition from which I was suffering.  I certainly wouldn’t go to a homeopathic doctor if I found a suspicious lump.

It would be too easy to throw homeopathy into the same “harmless nonsense” drawer as other alternative remedies such as acupuncture and crystal therapy.  However, I’m not sure that homeopathy is so benign.  It is costing every single one of us in the UK a portion of our hard-earned (and begrudgingly parted with) money in taxation that would be better spent on more doctors and nurses in the NHS, not to mention reliable, conventional treatments that are supported by scientific research and statistical data review.

Richard Dawkins quite rightly tore homeopathy a new one in his 2007 Channel 4 television series, The Enemies of Reason, and exposed the vast quantities of tax-payers’ money that the British government is spending in using this puff alongside proven medical treatments.

It is clear from this clip that the longer periods of time that homeopathic practitioners spend with their patients in comparison to conventional general practitioners is a very important part of the treatment.  However, Hahnemann originally stated that a homeopathic remedy could only be prescribed after an examination of at least three hours!  In addition, Hahnemann also said that mint could diminish or eliminate the curative effects, so patients ought not to be using chewing gum or toothpaste.  So much for walk-in-and-buy-it-off-the-shelf-marketing; it seems that the central principles of the original founding-father have been sacrificed to the new god of $$$.

More seriously, however, a recent report from BBC News states that the “treatment” is being used in Third World countries to combat more serious conditions such as malaria and AIDS.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) responded to a letter from a group of young researchers, Voice of Young Science Network, and has condemned the use of homeopathic remedies to treat such diseases.

In a letter to the WHO in June, the medics from the UK and Africa said:

We are calling on the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhoea, influenza, malaria and HIV.

Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases.

Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed.

When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost.

Dr Nick Beeching, a specialist in infectious diseases at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said:

Infections such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis all have a high mortality rate but can usually be controlled or cured by a variety of proven treatments, for which there is ample experience and scientific trial data.

There is no objective evidence that homeopathy has any effect on these infections, and I think it is irresponsible for a healthcare worker to promote the use of homeopathy in place of proven treatment for any life-threatening illness.

British comedians, Mitchell and Webb, conclusively debunk this piece of pseudo-scientific nonsense by demonstrating just what would happen if a car crash victim was treated with those little white pills:

Alternative remedies or proper A & E care? If I found myself with a life threatening disease or injury, I know which one I would go for.

Snake-oil

Homeopathy is a bogus treatment that should be treated the same as snake oil.  I’m not saying that modern science is perfect.  Certainly pharmaceutical companies have much to atone for with their absolutist control of the market, particularly in the Third World, along with the manufacture of bogus drugs.

However, “alternative remedies” and/or “ancient remedies” are so-called because they are pre-scientific.  A patient treated with such “remedies” may well get better, but it will be despite the best efforts of the witch-doctor.  The health and well-being of the world’s population would be better served by abandoning them altogether and focusing on rational, testable and evolving methods.  It’s another example of how badly the human race needs to abandon its childish fantasies of magical cures.

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